HC Deb 01 April 1889 vol 334 cc1249-50
MR. KIMBER (Wandsworth)

I beg to ask whether the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been called to the fact that at the recent Birmingham Assizes the Guardians of Wrought Plate of Birmingham successfully sued a jeweller for fines amounting to £720 (reduced to £50 at the suggestion of the learned Judge who tried the case) for selling plain 9-carat gold rings, unhallmarked, such rings being held to be wedding rings, and therefore liable to the duty of 17s. per ounce, and that the Guardians are prosecuting in another case in which the fines are estimated at £2,000; whether Her Majesty's Government require that every plain gold ring should be treated as a wedding ring, whether sold as a wedding ring or otherwise; whether, seeing that no drawback of duty is allowed upon the export of wedding rings, he can issue such instruct- tions to the various assay offices as will permit manufacturers to execute foreign orders for plain gold rings, and to export them without the obligation of assay or payment of duty; and whether, seeing the difficulty in regard to our home trade of determining what is and what is not a wedding ring, he will consider the expediency of abolishing the duty upon all plain gold rings?


The attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been called to the case to which the hon. Member refers, and the facts are as stated. In the absence of any legal definition of a wedding ring all plain gold rings are primâ facie liable to duty, though, as a matter of fact, the practice of the Board of Inland Revenue has been not to take proceedings in cases when the rings, if solid, exceed 7 dwts. in weight, or, if hollow, exceed 5–16 in. in inside breadth. In the case to which the hon. Member refers the jury held that the rings were wedding rings and were sold as such, and it seems to me that the question "What is a wedding ring?" is one peculiarly fitted for a jury to decide. With regard to the third paragraph of the hon. Member's question, I may say that the provision disallowing drawback upon the export of wedding rings was made so far back as 1820, probably on account of the difficulty the Customs found in examining such small articles. As nearly the whole of the gold plate duty is derived from wedding rings, both this and the concluding question of the hon. Member are intimately connected with the general question of the repeal of the duty, which has for some time been under the consideration of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.